A recent study revealed that 47 percent of Americans experienced financial identity theft in 2020, and losses in 2021 are expected to reach $721.3 billion. As virtual attacks against governments, corporations, and individuals become more frequent, it’s more important than ever to add extra layers of protection to your online footprint wherever you can.
Below we’ve created a list of tips to help you know what to do – and what not to do – online in order to protect your personal information and prevent identity theft.
You wouldn’t leave your front door unlocked in a dangerous neighborhood, and you shouldn’t leave your login credentials vulnerable by using recycled or easy-to-hack passwords.
To keep your password secure, make sure it’s long and strong. This generally means at least 12 characters, avoiding common phrases like “password” and “qwerty,” along with your name, birthday, hometown, or anything else that can be easily discovered on social media or through public records.
If you have trouble remembering long passwords, try using a passphrase of random words so that your password is more memorable to you, but not easily guessable by a cybercriminal. You can also make it more difficult for hackers to gain access to your information by alternating capitalization and adding numbers.
Many apps through your phone will offer you the opportunity to use your fingerprint or face recognition as an alternative to a password. This can make it much easier to log in, while ensuring only you can access your personal information. One note – if using fingerprint, be consistent in which finger (or thumb) you use and follow the instructions carefully when you set it up. This will help you avoid getting an error message when in a hurry to access that app in the future.
As cybercrime continues to evolve and hackers become more sophisticated in their methods, online security systems are increasingly vulnerable to digital threats and attacks. Two-factor authentication provides an extra layer of security to ensure your protection even when cybercriminals gain access to sensitive information.
How does two-factor authentication work? There are multiple variations. In each approach, a user enters their login credentials, and instead of immediately gaining access, they will then be asked to provide another piece of information to verify their identity. This can be a secure access code sent through email or text associated with that account; a push notification transmitted through a mobile app; verbal confirmation, and more.
Watch this video to gain a better understanding of two-factor authentication and how it can safeguard your information and identity against remote cyberattacks.
Wireless internet is ubiquitous in today’s modern environment, and you can gain access to the world wide web in cafes, restaurants, airports, hotels, universities, and other public spaces. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Unlike most private home or business networks, public wireless networks aren’t always secure, which comes with a variety of pitfalls. A network that isn’t secure might be unencrypted, or have minimal security, which makes it easy for cybercriminals to view your activity and hijack your information. The proliferation of hacking tools — many of which are available for free online — has increased the risk of identity theft of sensitive information, including private documents, contacts, and login credentials.
To protect against online identity theft, be smart about when and how you use the internet. Always assume that public Wi-Fi isn’t secure, and avoid making sensitive financial transactions unless you’re connected to a secure network. Only log in or transmit personal information on websites that are fully encrypted. You can easily check this by making sure a URL starts with “https” instead of “http.”
Check out the Federal Trade Commission’s advice on how to safely use public wi-fi networks for more tips to keep your personal information safe while you’re away from home.
In a typical phishing scam, cybercriminals will try to use a number of techniques to fool you into giving them your personal information. Phishing emails and text messages often appear to be real communication from a company or person you know or trust. They can seem like they’re from a financial institution, a social network site, online store, or online payment website or app.
Phishing scams can be devastating, as perpetrators can trick victims into revealing passwords, bank account numbers, and even Social Security numbers. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reported that people lost $57 million to phishing scams in one year alone.
How can you protect yourself from falling into a phisher’s trap? Think before you click, and only open links when you’re browsing trusted sites. Avoid clicking on random emails and instant messages, and keep an eye out for common phishing language, like an email that starts with “Dear Customer” instead of your name.
The internet provides access to a wealth of information, products and services, entertainment, and more. It simultaneously provides opportunities to scammers, hackers, and identity thieves looking to steal sensitive information. The best defense is a strong offense, so make sure to follow our tips to protect yourself from becoming the victim of a cybercrime.
If you think a cybercriminal has accessed your personal information, such as your Social Security, credit card, or bank account number, go to IdentityTheft.gov and follow the steps outlined to retrieve your compromised information.